Lot 59 of 107:
Fighting Apaches on Mexico's frontier, 1786 letters  

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Lot closed - unsold
$4,000 - $6,000

Four manuscript letters from Juan Gutierrez de la Cueva, a Spanish officer active in the frontier regions of Arizona, California and Texas, to Joaquín de Amezqueta, Commander of the Presidio de San Carlos, Sonora

Gutierrez de la Cueva, Juan






  • Letter to Joaquin de Amezqueta, commander of the Cuerpo de Dragones Provinciales de San Carlos, instructing him to increase pressure on the hostile Apache peoples and notifying him of the interim appointment of Manuel Flón Tejada as governor of Puebla de Los Angeles. Chihuahua, 15 March 1786. (Folio) 39.2x21.0.cm, [2] pp. manuscript letter, signed and dated.
  • Letter to Joaquín de Amezqueta, commander of the Cuerpo de Dragones Provinciales de San Carlos, notifying him that the statesman and Secretary of State, José de Gálvez y Gallardo, had been awarded the title of Marqués de Sonora (9 October 1785) and instructing Amezqueta to ensure that this news is circulated among his corps and in the region more generally. Chihuahua, 24 February 1786. (Folio) 29.6x20.2 cm, [2] pp. manuscript letter, signed and dated.  
  • Letter to Joaquín de Amezqueta, commander of the Cuerpo de Dragones Provinciales de San Carlos, reiterating instructions, originally issued in Spain by Alejandro O’Reilly on 15 June 1784, on the manner of making interim appointments for positions suddenly left vacant. Chihuahua, 21 August 1786. (Folio) 39.7x21.0 cm, [2] pp. manuscript letter, signed and dated.
  • Letter to Joaquín de Amezqueta, commander of the Cuerpo de Dragones Provinciales de San Carlos, relaying the information that the King of Spain had awarded José de Gálvez, Spain’s Secretary of State, the privilege of signing official documents with a seal rather than with his signature, a privilege in part given to counter Gálvez’s increased workload during these years as one of Charles III’s most powerful ministers. Chihuahua, 18 September 1786. [Including:] Certified copy of the Royal Decree issued by Charles III to José de Gálvez, Marqués de Sonora, dated Aranjuez, 18 May 1786. (Folio) 30.2x20.3 cm, [2], [2] pp., manuscript letter and document, signed and dated.

Housed together in in custom cloth & boards folder.

Four original letters, to our knowledge unpublished, addressed to the Commander of the Cuerpo de Dragones of the Presidio de San Carlos, in the border with Arizona, all written by Gutierrez de la Cueva, a Spanish officer active in the frontier regions of Arizona, California and Texas; one of the letters contains instructions to the Presidio to apply pressure over hostile Apaches, the others, as above, about the management of the Presidio and information from Spain  about appointments. In the first letter of the group, Gutiérrez de la Cueva informs Amezqueta of the instruction issued by the King of Spain to increase military pressure on the indigenous Apache people of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona in retaliation for the raids, murders and robberies which they had perpetrated, and adds that Antonio Rangel, military commander of the Interior Provinces, would have all the men, weapons and supplies necessary for this put at his disposal.

Juan Gutiérrez de la Cueva (b. 1742), army officer and governor of Coahuila province in northern Mexico, was employed from the time of his arrival in the Americas in 1764 until his retirement in the 1790s in the defence of Spanish missions and settlements on the frontier regions of northern Mexico and in the suppression of the Apache, Mescalero and Comanche peoples of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. From 1764 to 1765, Gutiérrez de la Cueva had formed part of José de Gálvez’s retinue in his visita of, first, California, where Gutiérrez de la Cueva briefly held the post of governor, and, subsequently, of the still largely unsettled frontier region of northern Mexican. Thereafter, Gutiérrez de la Cueva joined the group of loyal crown employees whom Gálvez, as one of the most energetic of the Bourbon reformers, trusted to implement his policies in Spanish America. In 1777, Gutiérrez de la Cueva was tasked with the establishment of militia forces in the frontier region of Nueva Vizcaya before being appointed, in 1779, Inspector of the Interior Provinces, a vast region that encompassed large parts of the Californias, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Sinaloa, Sonora, Coahuila and Nueva Vizcaya. In this and in his subsequent appointment as Ayudante Inspector in 1783, he was to prove particularly industrious, travelling extensively across the region visiting Spanish missions, garrisons (presidios) and settlements to reform and upgrade their defences, as well as leading numerous attacks on the hostile Apache and Mascalero peoples. These attacks were intensified in 1785 and 1786 (the year in which Gutiérrez de la Cueva composed this letter/these letters) as a result of the 1785 Comanche-Texan accord signed in San Antonio, Texas, by which the Comanche agreed to assist the Spanish in fighting the Apache in the region of Coahuila where Gutiérrez de la Cueva was largely based. In 1785, he organized a daring attack on the Apache of Encinillas and another in 1786 in the Sierra de la Florida (see A. Canales Santos, Valle y presidio de Santa Rosa, 1590–1821 (hoy Múzquiz, Coahuila), Monterrey, Coahuila: Centro de Información de Historia Regional, 2002, p. 336). As a reward for his actions, Gutiérrez de la Cueva was appointed Governor of Coahuila on 29 October 1788 where, since this was a region subject to regular raids from the Lipán and Natagé Apache from north of the Rio Grande, Gutiérrez de la Cueva continued to play an important role in the Mexican Apache Wars.
"For nearly two centuries in the borderlands that stretched from the Gulf of California to eastern Texas, refractory bands had not only defied military reduction but had fomented rebellion among the nomadic tribes that had settled near the missions and presidios. The area extending from Sonora east across Chihuahua to western Coahuila – or roughly the colonial province of Nueva Viscaya – was the scene of the greatest unrest, with raiding parties from Texas, from New Mexico, and from eastern Arizona striking deep into Chihuahua and into the districts around Saltillo and Parras in Coahuila. Official attention was first directed to the seriousness of the Indian problem by José de Gálvez, who ordered an inspection of the northern defenses of Mexico in 1765; and in the thirty years that followed it was his recommendations that laid the foundation for a pragmatic Indian policy" (Joseph F. Park, ‘Spanish Indian Policy in Northern Mexico, 1765–1810’, Arizona and the West, 1962, p. 325).

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